Hello! My name is Emma Smith, I am currently a sophomore at Illinois State University with a double major in Animal Science and Agribusiness. I am from Seneca, Illinois where I grew up on a diversified grain and livestock operation. I am blessed to have been selected as a recipient of the GFAI Industry Immersion Scholarship. This scholarship is unique in the sense that it not only provides recipients with financial resources, but also with resources that allow students to connect with the grain industry in a unique way. Before the current school year began, my fellow scholarship recipients and I experienced the Industry Immersion Tour, where we were given the opportunity to visit and experience different grain facilities throughout the state. During these three days we were able to network with both each other and professionals within the industry, develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for the grain industry in Illinois, and have the opportunity to be exposed to what happens to the grain once it is unloaded at the elevator.
Speaking of the elevator, in addition to the Industry Immersion Tour we took in August, each recipient is able to shadow a grain facility in the fall and spring. I was fortunate to be paired with Consolidated Grain and Barge Co. (CGB) in Dwight, which is about a half an hour from my home. At the office, I met with Facility Manager, Ryan Tucker, who explained the main purpose and goals of CGB’s Dwight location and how the rail system is a key factor to the success of their operation. I had the unique opportunity to watch as a train was being filled with grain before it headed to the Southeastern part of the United States. As we watched the train be loaded, I was given valuable information about the different rail systems that are utilized, the importance of loading cars in a timely manner, and how organic grain is handled differently than non-organic grain. I also watched how each semi was probed and sampled before entering the facility. We experienced quite a bit of this during our Industry Immersion Tour, but it is always interesting to see the different ways different operations go about this process. While the train was loading, I was able to sit in on a weekly safety call with the general manager, the assistant general manager, the group manager, and several facility managers throughout Illinois. It was quite refreshing to witness managers be so concerned about the safety of their facilities and the wellbeing of their employees. Following the meeting, I was walked through the billing process of the train that was being filled, which can also be applied to train containers - which are what is being filled if a train is not present. I was then fortunate enough to meet with Senior Merchandiser, Sam Sardesai, who walked me through his day-to-day duties. We discussed how important it was to build a relationship with the local producers, rather than just being focused on the dollars and cents of the operation. Mr. Sardesai informed me that the facility was able to come haul the grain of producers if they did not have the equipment to do so, and the scales had the dimensions to fit a tractor hauling two wagons. I thought this was awesome because it creates such a convenient experience for the producers. We then discussed how risk was being managed within an operation. CGB provides solutions such as, but not limited to, floor/ceiling target, precision reports that compare predicted/actual costs in order to predict for the upcoming years, and selling a certain percentage of the crop - all to ensure that the farmer is not in a high risk situation. I was incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to work with CGB’s Dwight location. From even just the short amount of time I was there, I was able to tell they are an operation that truly cares about the producers and I am excited to continue this experience in the spring!
My name is Jaton Shaffer, and I am currently a Junior at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. I am studying Agriculture and Consumer Economics with a focus in Markets and Management. Within my studies at the University, I have been focusing mainly on the commodity futures markets and learning the forces and factors that drive these markets. I may not fully know what my future career will look like. I have taken a serious interest in the grain industry. For my job shadow as a part of the GFAI scholarship program I was paired with Leland Dean at the Deland Farmers Cooperative in Deland, IL. My time spent with Leland this fall was very insightful. During my time I learned more about how elevators protect themselves from losses on the grain they purchase from farmers by hedging using the futures markets. How elevators manage to make money using basis and making timely sales the end user markets that are available to them. As well as how important record keeping is in managing the overall state of the elevator. It wasn’t just the management side of the business that Leland taught me about. Leland shared a lot of the important parts of keeping in touch with your customers, providing advice and wisdom where you feel comfortable, and just how important personal relationships are within the business. Many people stopped by or called the elevator during the day and Leland was always there to visit with them and help them make the best decisions for themselves. I cannot wait to return to Deland this spring and learn more about managing an elevator
Hi me again! Approximately a month later, I traveled back to Tuscola to learn further into their daily business operations at the elevator. As I was pulling into the facility, trucks were digging into the corn pile to move grain into the elevator bins. This is essential as winter weather and commodity quality are negatively correlated. All day trucks were working to reduce the size of the pile and truck it to the grain pits. Chase had some team calls scheduled for the morning time, so I got to listen in and hear about what they thought the market was doing and how things are looking within their region. After the team calls for the day, there was cash grain to be hedged in the futures market. He showed me the process of how a real-life hedge would work and since it was nearing the end of the month, we talked about spreading contracts to the next month. Not only is he managing risk for all the Tuscola grain, but for the six other elevators in the region. This involves a heavy amount of communication and market awareness to be able to pick up on good grain basis opportunities. Collaboration is a key factor to the success of any elevator as there are many moving pieces that need to fit together to accomplish the daily tasks. Originators, operators, and the trading team must be able to have strong skills in communication and problem solving to work as a successful team. Once again, I am honored and thankful to be a scholarship recipient and to spend two days within the grain industry at ADM. Thank you to everyone who has a hand in making this program happen
Hello! My name is Kate Miller, a senior at the University of Illinois majoring in Agriculture Consumer Economics with a focus on Agribusiness Markets & Management. My roots trace back to a grain farm in Macedonia, IL, located in the southern part of the state. Ever since my early days in 4-H as a clover bud, agriculture has been my unwavering passion. Throughout a decade of active involvement, I cultivated my interest in this field. In high school, I joined FFA and proudly earned my Illinois State Degree. I chose the University of Illinois for its renowned College of ACES, which stands among the world's top agriculture colleges. During my time at Uof I, I became part of the 4-H House Cooperative Sorority and spend my free time engaging in excellent organizations like Orange Krush and ACE Ambassadors. Last summer, I had an internship at ADM in Decatur, where I further developed my merchandising and sales skills. I'm set to return to ADM's St. Louis location in Summer 2024 to dive deeper into basis trading and expand my understanding of commodity markets. My career goal is to be a commodity trader so I am educating myself further by taking two courses on basis trading and will receive my grain merchandising certification by the end of the year! This experience has helped me further understand grain elevators and the board of trade. During the fall semester, I chose the ADM Elevator in Tuscola, IL to spend my time learning more about their business structure and market opportunities. I spent most of my time learning from Kenny Hadden, Regional Manager and Chase Rhein, Trade Manager. They gave me a general understanding of the Tuscola Elevator and the several market capabilities. We then further discussed the situations on both the corn and bean piles and how quality can become a serious problem when not tarped or picked up in an efficient amount of time. I was happy to be able to relate what I was learning through my basis trading courses to the conversations during this two-day job shadow experience. After learning an overview of the elevator, I received a tour from two operation employees. They explained how the whole elevator is operated by just one computer and how there is many pros and cons to technology advancing in several spaces within agriculture. I was given a tour of the rail load out system and even got to take the operations elevator up to where they go to fill outbound trains. This experience was unmatched as all their staff was welcoming and they answered all my questions. I would like to say thank you to all the employees at Tuscola and especially Kenny and Chase for making my first day educational and enjoyable. I can’t wait to go back for my second day of job shadowing.
I am a sophomore at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, pursuing dual degrees in Agricultural and Consumer Economics (emphasis in Policy, International Trade, and Development) and Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies. This semester, I am enrolled in ACE 222 Agricultural Marketing with Professor Paul Stoddard. The course and Grain and Feed Association industry tour have sparked my interest in a career in international grain marketing, allowing me to apply my interests in agriculture and Eastern European studies.
I recently had the privilege of spending two days with Topflight Grain Cooperative Inc. in Monticello. Grain Originator and Crop Insurance Agent Kelley Lawhorn and CEO Derrick Bruhn provided invaluable insights into Topflight's efficient grain operations. With fifteen facilities and 3.159 million bushels of storage capacity at their Monticello location alone, I was impressed by the scale and efficiency of their grain movement and marketing programs for commodities, including corn, soybeans, wheat, and non-GMO beans. I am grateful to Mr. Lawhorn and Mr. Bruhn for taking the time to educate me on the workings of a thriving agricultural cooperative—experiences like this further my goal of one day working in international grain marketing and trade.
Hello! My name is Emily Brooks, and I am originally from Prophetstown, Illinois. I am a senior at the University
of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign majoring in Agricultural and Consumer Economics. As the f if th generation of
my f amily’s grain and livestock f arm, I have gained an immense passion for the agricultural industry.
I am grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in the GFAI Summer Immersion Tour. Over fall break, I
got even more insight into the grain and feed industry during my job shadow experience at Rock River Lumber
and Grain Co.
As a young girl, I felt like a regular at Rock River's main of f ice in Prophetstown because I loved selling Girl
Scout candy and cookies to the employees. I had no clue how big of a role they played not only in our local
area but also within the agricultural industry. It was great being able to view their company through a dif ferent
lens as a college student who has taken multiple agricultural marketing courses.
During my f irst day at Rock River, I spent the day with Mr. Carey Bauer, the General Manager, both discussing
Rock River’s role in the grain and feed industry and touring its facilities. Rock River is the biggest grain shipper
on the UP-Rail Line, and the grain goes to Texas, Mexico, and California to feed chickens and cattle. In fact,
Rock River has served 5 billion chickens. Additionally, I was able to tour Prophetstown’s fertilizer and chemical
facilities, the Sterling grain elevator and rail, and Frary Lumber.
I was able to observe Conner King and Jaycie VanKampen, who are both Merchandiser-Logistics, on the
second day. I listened as they interacted with farmers both in person and over the phone and learned more
about the commodity markets and the role of basis, margin calls, and bids.
I want to thank the Grain and Feed Association of Illinois for providing this scholarship and experiential learning
opportunity to myself and other young agriculturalists interested in learning more about the industry.
Additionally, I want to thank Mr. Carey Bauer and his team at Rock River for teaching me more about the ins
and outs of what it takes to be a successful local grain elevator.
Hello, I’m Jack Beetz and this Spring, I did my job shadow at Meriden Grain, just west of Mendota Illinois. My current career plans now that I have just completed my associates degree at Joliet Junior College are to attend Iowa State University in the fall to earn my bachelor’s degree in ag studies. After college I plan to return to the family farm and work at Meriden Grain as well. During my days at Meriden grain I helped to sweep grain bins using bin gators then going in afterwards to sweep the rest in with a broom. Next, I helped clean out tunnels that had bee’s wings and dust out so that it would be easy to access and service the conveyor. My next day I was helping load semi trucks, we had 8 trucks hauling out of the elevator and I was weighing them and helping them load without being overweight. I also used an excel spreadsheet to keep track of how many loads were going to each destination. We hauled nearly 50 loads that day. Also part of my day was talking with customers of the elevator as they came in, I enjoyed talking to them and hearing their takes on certain situations and planting progress and I think they enjoyed seeing a new face at the elevator.
This is Sophia Hortin checking in with new experiences from the second semester of my senior
year at the University of Illinois. As a student completing an Illinois teaching license alongside
my degree, this semester is untraditional. I am a student teacher at Sycamore High School in
Sycamore, Illinois. Because I am student teaching, I am not on a traditional college campus or
attending traditional college classes. Instead, I am teaching agriculture courses daily, as a career
teacher would, under the guidance of three experienced agricultural educators within Sycamore's
local school district.
The shift in setting that comes with student teaching also challenges me to think of the
grain and feed association industry immersion experience from a different angle. Specifically, I
am reflecting on intersections between agricultural education and the grain industry within
Illinois. Part of this reflection includes a written discussion on how educating about the grain and
feed industry can be integrated into each of the three main components of agricultural education
programs. Agricultural education in Illinois models after three main components: classroom &
laboratory instruction, FFA, and supervised agricultural experiences (SAE). Ideally, these
components will intersect in some activities and events as student involvement in all three areas
creates a holistic agricultural education experience. This model is called the "three-circle model,"
with one circle for each principal component. Throughout my student teaching experience, it is
abundantly clear that there is space to incorporate grain and feed industry education within each
of these circles or components. Doing so is mutually beneficial for both the agricultural
education program and Illinois' grain and feed industry. Through student teaching, I also found
many ways in which I learned about the grain and feed industry or skills applicable to grain and
feed careers, which I will outline more thoroughly towards the end of this discussion.
Classroom & Laboratories
The grain industry touches many different arms of knowledge and skills, which
incorporate into course curriculums in many ways. For example, science-based agriculture
courses can incorporate feed science and grain quality topics from a scientific approach.
Agriculture business classes can include lessons on commodity markets, merchandising, and
origination topics. Technical courses like agriculture mechanics, welding, and physical science
systems, can expose students to the application of skills within the grain industry, such as
operations and technical systems, that they are learning in their coursework.
Critical topics like safety and career exploration are broad enough to be incorporated into
almost any class. For example, safety in agriculture, which includes grain safety topics, is critical
to all people who might encounter grain or a grain handling facility. Therefore, grain safety
topics would be an excellent candidate for incorporation into an introduction to agriculture class,
the foundational agriculture course with the broadest audience.
Lastly, exposing students to career paths, including those in the grain and feed industries,
is integral to a well-rounded high school educational experience. While it is not the role of the
educator is not to recruit students to a specific sector, it is crucial to encompass a variety of
careers in agriculture. Students often think of farmers, veterinarians, agronomists, repair
technicians, and others as being the traditional "careers in agriculture." Yet, industries like the
grain industry house careers in merchandising, origination, operations, safety, and more that
often suit students' interests and skills, even though they may not be a career that the student is
aware of. At Sycamore, I learned a great deal from observing their Agriculture Academy course.
This course is a senior-level class that focuses on career or college readiness and career
exploration. Students in this course visit agricultural businesses in the local area, hear from guest
speakers, and complete job shadow experiences (like those in the GFAI industry immersion
program). I found that even at the senior-level stage, where students choose a career pathway,
they are still searching for what suits them. Exposure to agriculture careers, some of which were
in grain and feed, was critical to developing their decisions about the next steps after high
From a teaching perspective, FFA is a great space to provide students with stated
interests in agriculture with exposure to grain and feed industries outside the classroom. These
learning opportunities could come in the form of business and industry tours, attendance at
workshops during conferences and conventions, and career development events.
FFA is also a space where students develop leadership and communication skills. Based
on what I experienced during student teaching, teachers must provide context regarding how
those skills translate to applicable settings or careers. Students possess more "buy-in" to learning
these skills and retain them longer when they see purpose in their investment. One way to
provide them with context is through interactions with industries, like grain and feed, where they
see professionals using those skills and have opportunities to practice them during their
Supervised Agricultural Experiences (SAEs) are work-based learning programs for students.
Teachers can create another intersection between agricultural education and the grain and feed
industry by fostering connections for students to complete work-based experiences or projects in
related fields. “Doing to Learn” is a portion of a motto used in describing the work of
agricultural education. The idea is that there is a great deal learned by immersion into the
working environment, which is why SAEs are an integral part of students learning about
agriculture, including the grain and feed industry.
Learning as a Student Teacher
I would be remiss if I did not also reflect upon how my personal student teaching
experiences impact my relationship with the grain and feed industry. Even though I do not plan
to become a teacher upon graduation in May, the skills I learned during student teaching are still
valuable. For example, teaching high school students about agriculture required me to fine-tune
my ability to break down technical information and present it clearly. This skill will be valuable
in other career fields, including the career fields I experienced during my grain and feed industry
immersion tours and job shadows. Many professionals I encountered during these experiences
expressed how important it is to communicate technical information to their farmer patrons or
colleagues to ensure all parties' well-being and that tasks are performed safely and successfully.
Other skills acquired include collaboration between multiple organizations to achieve a common
purpose, skills to show the value of agriculture in work settings in which many are unfamiliar
Reflection throughout curriculum development and assisting with the daily facilitation of
an agricultural education program helped solidify connections, concepts, and ideas about the role
of grain and feed in our world. A mentor once told me, “Action without reflection is a waste of
time.” They meant that reflecting upon our past experiences is where we learn to use those them
for further development, action, or to derive opportunities by reconnecting in some way. During
student teaching, I often revisited or reflected upon my experiences as I incorporated them into
lessons, conversations about careers and opportunities with individual students, or in seeking
ways for community professionals to engage with the agricultural education program. Specific
grain and feed experiences I frequently revisited include internships, personal interactions
through my farming background, and the industry immersion scholarship program. Reflecting on
these experiences from a new setting required me to think about them from a new angle,
broadening and deepening my takeaway points as I look back.
Lastly, studies show that an excellent way to learn information is to be in a situation
where you must teach that information or explain it to others. Teachers even use this as a
learning strategy in their classrooms. Challenging students to teach or explain a concept to one
another, an evidence-based strategy to support students in mastering content. I also experienced
this strategy in action personally as I acquired content knowledge and transformed it into lessons
for my students. For example, during a pre-student teaching clinical field experience, I developed
and taught a multi-day lesson about assessing feed quality, which directly intersects with the
grain and feed industry. Before conducting the lesson, I was entirely unfamiliar with assessing
feed quality. Yet, even months later, I still retain what I learned about feed in delivering that
lesson. This feed quality lesson is just one of several examples where teaching strengthened my
knowledge of grain and feed topics as I put together learning content and lessons for students.
Although my industry immersion experience happened through the shoes of an
agricultural educator rather than a local grain professional, I still find many connections as to
how this experience strengthened my knowledge of grain and feed, the skills required to become
an industry professional, and my ability to pass on learning about the grain and feed industry. I
am very grateful for the plethora of investments and experiences throughout the grain and feed
industry immersion scholarship program, which deepened my knowledge of a vital agricultural
industry and sparked an interest in grain and feed careers. Thank you, Grain and Feed
Association of Illinois!
Hello, again! For a brief reintroduction, my name is Halie Kohl and I reside in Herscher, IL.
Coming from a grain and livestock family, I developed my passion for agriculture quickly. Since
May 2020, I have owned and operated Halie’s Farmstand, a small vegetable production
business. I am currently a college sophomore agribusiness major, dually enrolled at Kankakee
Community College and Illinois State University. Upon college graduation, I aspire to develop
Halie’s Farmstand into a larger farm-to-fork operation with an emphasis on commercial tomato
production and continue raising livestock.
For my spring job-shadowing days, I returned to Rabideau Grain and Lumber. While the
spring-time is busy for farmers in the fields, it can be rather slow at the elevator. I received a
settlement statement from Incobrasa (Gilman, Illinois) for beans which Rabideau Grain hauled
to them via semi. I matched up Rabideau’s outbound weight tickets for the trucks to Incobrasa’s
weight tickets and reconciled the statement in their computer system.
The office manager, Bev Buckley, and office assistant, Lisa Patchett, took this time to explain to
me their grain transportation methods of railcars verse semis, buyers, and end users. In addition
to doing business with Incobrasa, Rabideau Grain ships corn via CN railroad to chicken farmers
in Mississippi and trucks corn to One Earth ethanol plant in Gibson City, Illinois.
Railcars allow elevators to ship mass amounts of grain in a short period of time. Approximately 4
semis fit in 1 railcar (approximately 4,000 bushel per hopper). Plus, the consignee of the railcars
pays the freight charges. Rabideau Grain plays a smaller role with railroad shipments, handling
only 25 rail cars at a time. At first utilizing railroads seems simple, but I have learned that grain
elevators are truly at the railroad’s mercy. After the rail cars are delivered, CN only allows one
free day and one loading day to get the cars ready for pick-up, regardless if the drop time was
11:59 PM or 12:01 AM. Within this timeframe, Rabideau Grain must have Champaign County
Grain Inspection do a stowage inspection on all cars, have employees load all cars, Champaign
County Grain Inspection returns to take samples and produces a certificate of grain grade, FM,
etc., then the cars are sealed, and submitted for release. If all pieces of the puzzle do not come
together within the allotted CN timeframe, demurrage occurs and each car is docked $200/day.
On a full set of 25 rail cars, Rabideau Grain risks losing $5,000/day due to inclement weather,
breakdowns, etc if they cannot get all cars loaded.
Moving off the rails and back onto the roads, semis also play a large role in the transportation of
grain. Rabideau Grain owns 5 trucks. When trucking grain to Incobrasa or One Earth, each load
is weighed outbound and then when it arrives at its destination. Prior to hauling, a price is
settled on between Rabideau and Incobrasa or One Earth, and the elevator is already price
protected by hedging the grain.
Hello again everyone! My name is Megan Hagemann, and I will be going into my senior year at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville in the fall. I am currently majoring in animal science with a comprehensive emphasis in nutrition. I have recently completed my spring job shadow at Bocker Ruff Grain in Polo, IL for the GFAI Industry Immersion Scholarship.
I had the opportunity to job shadow at Bocker Ruff Grain in the fall of 2022 and learn the ins and outs of the business. This spring, I was able to have more hands-on experience as part of my job shadow. First, I observed morning paperwork to gain more insight into the flow of Bocker Ruff Grain. I was given the chance to run the outbound scale for the day for all the trucks that had unloaded at the elevator. I then had the opportunity to watch a train being loaded as well. I observed the computer system behind the train and was given more information on how the train sector of the elevator works.
I would like to extend a thank you to Bocker Ruff Grain for allowing me to job shadow at their facility for my fall and spring job shadow. I am extremely thankful for all the opportunities and networking events the Grain and Feed Association of Illinois Industry Immersion Scholarship has provided me the past year, and I look forward to my future in this industry!
Grain & Feed Association of Illinois
3521 Hollis Dr.